Skip to comments.How Four Israeli Fighter Pilots Stopped A Massive Arab Invasion In 1948
Posted on 05/17/2014 12:59:52 PM PDT by iowamark
Steven Pressfield's new book "The Lion's Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War" contains a remarkable account of the Israeli Air Force's first-ever mission in 1948, in which four planes succeeded against overwhelming odds to stop a massive Egyptian army in its tracks.
When Israel became an independent nation on May 14, 1948, the armies of four Arab neighbors Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq immediately invaded the new country to prevent its creation.
The Israelis were desperate to defend themselves, but they lacked many modern weapons and had no aircraft to protect troops, Pressfield wrote. Meanwhile, western nations including the U.S. and Britain were enforcing a ban on arms shipments to Israel.
Basing his book on dozens of interviews with various individuals who experienced Israel's early wars, Pressfield wrote the chapters from the perspectives of veterans who survived combat, telling the story in their voices.
Knowing a massive Arab invasion was imminent, American Lou Lenart helped recruit foreign war veterans like himself to fly for Israel. Czechoslovakia was one of the only countries willing to sell aircraft to Israel, because it was a Soviet bloc nation desperate for American dollars.
Just two days before the Arab nations invaded, Lenart and a handful of recruits rushed to Czechoslovakia to train on that countrys version of a German Messerschmitt 109 fighter plane ironically, the type flown by the Nazis during World War II. Lenart, who had served as a U.S. Marine fighter pilot against the Japanese, was not impressed with the Czech aircraft:
(Excerpt) Read more at businessinsider.com ...
"Cast A Giant Shadow"
Reminds me of the story of the Davidka mortar, so loud during a night of bad weather that Arabs mistook it for an atomic weapon (1948 remember) and fled.
Would make a great Movie!
Heroic pilots. And it’s hard not to conclude that God had something to do with turning their brave effort into a victory.
Sounds like the Arab armies were expecting to slaughter unarmed civilians, not expecting to fight a war. Just not mentally prepared to fight. Expected a genocide against the Jews.
His book on the Spartans was amazing.
The Seven-Day War
The Egyptians are Weak with the Sword but Strong with Their Mouths
These Arab armies were, like all Arab armies at the time, designed and structured to parade and to oppress the ruler's enemies. That means a very different type of army from one designed to fight and defeat another army.
Not to take anything away from the bravery of the Israelis, but they were extremely lucky in their enemies. Also, the population and theoretical military power of the Arab countries involved may have been impressive, but they never succeeded in bringing those forces to bear. The Israelis had considerably more fighters actually in the line for most of the war. The Arabs also had on paper a lot more equipment, but a very great deal of what they had wasn't effective, due to lack of maintenance.
The statement above also leaves out Transjordan/Jordan, which actually did have a functional army unit, the Arab Legion. It gave the Israelis a good deal more trouble than the rest of the Arab "armies" put together.
A bad, bad airplane.
Eggzackly. See my post 10. Slaughtering unarmed civilians is exactly what Arab armies were designed and structured to do.
Read a fascinating article some years back, by an American officer who spent 30 years advising Arab armies.
He admired many individuals Arab officers, but said their armies were an utter mess. Most Arab leaders came to power via military coup, so are fully aware of the potential for they themselves to be similarly overthrown.
As a result, they keep tight control of the military, allowing them little initiative or control. He said a US master sergeant would have more authority to make decisions than an Arab colonel.
During Saddam’s rule, the air force and the army used different radios locked to different frequencies, in order to avoid a coordinated assault during a coup.
That said, the Israelis were and are always outnumbered and generally outgunned for the first 15 years, but they always devoted themselves to training, and of course have always been fighting for their homes and lives. As you said, when they call up the reserves, it’s basically the entire population fit to fight, making their army one of the largest in the world.
They also are much better educated in general, and study the hell out of things. The IDF discovered that the old rule of thumb about water requirements in desert warfare was a fraction of the actual amount, and just pushing up their water ration makes their soldiers seem like tireless supermen during combat. A good chunk of the Egyptian KIAs in 1967 died of thirst trying to flee (mostly on foot) across the Sinai.
I saw that too while training Iranian “officers” at A&M from 1974 through 1978. Worthless.
Also, the Soviets “knew” that Israel/Israeli attitude/economy was going to pro-Soviet because of several assumptions.
Soviets had just fought Nazi Germany -> The Jews (Israeli) would support those who fought the Germans/Nazis.
The Jews/Israelis were heavily in to collectivism/national/socialist functions and business setups -> The Israelis would become socialists and almost immediately good Communists.
The American and European Jews were (as they a
re now!) secular Jews in many areas. NOT religious Jews! Therefore, they (as frequent communists and almost always socialists in the other countries around the world, Israel would almost immediately become a good communist state next to the oil fields of the Arabs, south of Turkey, on the Mediterranean next to the Suez canal.
Check out this vid trailer for a documentary on the start of the Israeli Airforce .... very good!
Sherman Logan, this might be the paper to which you referred:
“Why Arabs Lose Wars”
When the U.S. and USSR met at the Elbe at the end of WWII, the Soviets were astonished that an American Lieutenant had as much authority as a Russian Colonel. Authoritarian countries have no concept of an enlisted man being smarter than many of the officers.
Yup, I think that’s it.
One of the Jewish politicians at the time said that the Arabs told all those Arabs living in Israel at that time to bail out and come back when the war was over and help themselves to anything that remained. If any Arab was found there during the war, he would be executed as a traitor. Most bailed and have been whining about being “displaced” ever since.
On another note, ammo was scarce and no one would sell them any, so they imported brass lipstick cases and made cartridges from them.
Lots of innovation when your back is against the wall.
“These Arab armies were, like all Arab armies at the time, designed and structured to parade and to oppress the ruler’s enemies.”
Just like the classic Turkish Army parade march, where the soldiers step off, take one step forward, pivot right & stare at the crowd, take another step forward, then pivot left & stare at the crowd on the other side, and so on.
An excellent observation. Go to youtube & look at newsreels of the Egyptian army parading in Cairo just before the 1967 Six Day War. Verrrry impressive!
Loved the ending - Arabs were sure the four planes were the tip of the spear... that Jews had hundreds of planes... You're right - it would make a great movie.
Reminds me of the story of Gidon (Gideon) and his army of 300 against the much larger Midianite army.